02/09/2018 1:40PM

Cunniffe's HomePride Farm a tribute to Ireland

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Daniel Cunniffe caught some flak from passers-by when he hung the sign for his HomePride Farm consignment before the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky winter mixed sale, but the feeling of accomplishment he got from that simple act was more than enough to muffle out the noise.

“Some people said it sounds like the name of bread, and some people said it’s the name of home goods,” Cunniffe said, “but to me, it means something special – to take pride in my home, take pride in my horses, take pride in myself, and hopefully everything else falls together.”

The Fasig-Tipton sale was the Dublin, Ireland, native’s first consigning under his own HomePride banner. He founded HomePride Farm after his former employer, Dapple Stud, closed its doors in 2014. Cunniffe brought some former clients with him and offered the horses at auction through Dapple’s former director of Thoroughbred operations, Stuart Morris. The farm sits on 350 leased acres in Paris, Ky.

In the recent sale, Cunniffe, 33, saw an opportunity to test the waters of consigning under his own name with a handful of his own horses during a relatively quiet period in the farm’s foaling season. The offerings were admittedly modest for his trial run, but he left the grounds with an empty trailer. His three horses offered sold for a combined $29,000, highlighted by a yearling Tapizar colt who brought $12,000.

“I’m just trying to move a few along,” he said. “I’ve been gradually moving up the ranks from being a positional manager to being a farm manager to going out on my own. I decided this was the last box to tick.”

It has been a steady climb for Cunniffe toward manning his own operation, beginning on his grandfather’s farm in western Ireland, where he spent as much time as he could despite growing up in a non-rural setting. The seed for the HomePride name, Cunniffe said, came from those days and the lessons he learned about valuing oneself and one’s work.

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He eventually attended Gurteen Agricultural College in County Tipperary, Ireland, where he studied equine business management.

The school was a jumping-off point for the young horseman, who came to the United States on a summer internship to work for Taylor Made Sales Agency. He returned to Ireland to finish his education and do work placements with trainers in Ireland and England before earning the Joss Collins Scholarship in 2007, offering international experience to up-and-comers in the industry.

His next two years were spent jumping between hemispheres to work breeding seasons, including time at Darby Dan Farm in Kentucky and Windsor Park Stud in New Zealand. Seeking respite from the travel schedule, Cunniffe accepted a position as Dapple Stud’s broodmare manger in 2009 and remained there until the farm’s closure.

In its short time in business, Cunniffe has built HomePride’s operation into one that foals 10 to 30 mares per year and boards 40 to 60 mares during breeding season.

True to the company’s name, Cunniffe has used his business to help build the résumés of other upcoming industry workers from his native country. His staff at the Fasig-Tipton sale included Sarah Carr, a fellow Gurteen graduate.

“It’s kind of cool to be doing this for the first time with somebody else that’s come from Ireland through the same channel,” Cunniffe said.

Cunniffe’s growth in the business has opened up plenty of new opportunities, but it has also begun to show him some potential limits.

That has become most apparent in the breaking portion of his operation, in which he’d ride each of the horses himself up to the 2-year-old stage. Teaching young horses to accept a saddle and rider can quickly put a great deal of punishment on the human body, which forced some difficult choices for someone whose entire mantra was based around being hands-on.

“Now that the business is beginning to grow and my position has gotten a little more important, a lot of people are telling me, ‘You need to give that up,’ and I’m beginning to see what they mean,” he said. “In November, two years ago, I broke my back in two places. Since then, I haven’t gotten up on as many, but it’s hard not to get up on them when you love doing this. Once they’re going and the bucks are out of them, I tend to sit on them.”

Still, with a barn full of mares to foal out and a potential new venture as a consignor in front of him, Cunniffe has plenty to keep his hands full.